Talks held over U-turn on alcohol ban at Scottish football grounds

Leicester City fans enjoy a beer at the stadium prior to an English Premier League match. Picture: Getty Images
Leicester City fans enjoy a beer at the stadium prior to an English Premier League match. Picture: Getty Images
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Discussions have taken place that could see the ban on alcohol being sold at Scottish football grounds relaxed, according to reports.

According to the BBC, the representatives from the Scottish Football Association, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government have held talks about a potential U-turn with Hampden’s Euro 2020 matches in line for a pilot scheme.

Glasgow is the only one of the tournament’s 12 host cities where supporters would be unable to buy booze in the stadium.

Police Scotland has said it would be open to discussing changes to the law, although Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins warned widespread public consultation would be needed to assess support.

The ban on alcohol being sold at Scotland’s football grounds was initially brought in following a riot at the 1980 Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Rangers with no alcohol being served in Scottish grounds.

Corporate hospitality areas are exempt from the rule, but the forthcoming Euro 2020 competition could lead to a change in the law.

UEFA has taken the decision to relax its own rules on the sale of alcohol during its competitions, meaning the cities staging matches in the 2020 event are free to sell alcohol - provided local laws allow it.

Hampden is set to stage three group games and one last-16 fixture, but any change in Scotland’s laws would require government legislation.

There has already been opposition to the idea from the Scottish Police Federation, with vice-chairman David Hamilton claiming that there are “particular problems for football and the idea of adding alcohol to that mix does not seem to make sense.”

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The SPF said there was already evidence that football chiefs were already struggling to manage crowds.

Mr Hamilton added: “We don’t have the same problems in rugby stadia that we do in football. We don’t see toilets being trashed, we don’t see pyrotechnics.”

Alcohol is sold at English games, but can’t be drunk “in view of the pitch”, so fans are able to have a drink before the match and at half time, but not in their seat.

Dundee chief John Nelms told the BBC he was in favour of a similar idea in Scotland, adding: “Having a beer and watching the match with your mates would be fantastic. Just a few weeks ago I was at the Manchester City v Liverpool match and they had beer at that game, and [fans] behaved appropriately.

“I know there have been problems in the past but in the modern day, I think it’s much less of an issue. I also think it would help boost attendances, especially for the smaller clubs.”

Andrew Niven of the Scottish FA, who is overseeing Scotland’s contribution to Euro 2020, said he was aware of UEFA relaxing its own rules on alcohol sales in stadiums but warned further talks would need to take place.

He told the BBC: “While we are open to exploring this, further discussions would be required with the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and other stakeholders to properly assess the feasibility of legislative change.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government added: “We will continue to discuss these issues with Police Scotland, the Scottish FA and a wide range of other organisations to ensure our national game is safe and enjoyable for all.”